Two Ways to Explore Walled Medieval Lucca in Tuscany, Italy

Lucca is a captivating walled medieval city located in Tuscany, one of Italy’s most visited regions.  The exploration of a destination city can be either measured in hours or in days - day tripper versus slow traveler. And we encourage the latter whenever possible… so stop and smell the pizza!

The Day Tripper’s View of Lucca

With a relatively tight timeframe, the challenge is to see as many highlights as possible during a brisk march through town and checking off the must-see sites within the city’s walls, such as…

puccini-n-houseStatue of composer Giaccomo Puccini and his home/museum  

img_8308Church of San Michele in Foro

img_8335Cathedral of St. Martin

amfatherPiazza dell’Anfiteatro (Roman Amphitheater)

89331264Torre delle Ore (Clock Tower)

flickr_3142234250_4985a2195fTorre Guinigi

OK… you have just “seen” Lucca!

If time permits, day trippers may add a brief walk (up one ramp and down the next) on the tree-lined pedestrian promenade known as the city walls - yep, been there done that, check the box and take a few pictures with your cell phone.

You can see them all in a one-day visit… but have you really seen them?

The Slow Traveler’s View of Lucca

Lucca is a fascinating city with a history dating back into ancient Roman and Etruscan (pre-Roman) times. On our first visit to a destination, in addition to the normal research, one of our go-to options is to arrange for a private orientation tour.

We were fortunate to find Wanda Martinelli (, who met us on our first day and set our tourist compass for the rest of our visit.


We enjoyed a four-hour walking history lesson which was enhanced by this talented storyteller who loves her work and is very proud of her ancestral roots. Through Wanda, we were immersed in the real vibe of this area and were now armed with a list of the best restaurants, shopping, museums, concerts, must-see churches (there are nearly 100!), and sources for survival provisions such as wine, bread, pasta, cheese, and deli.

Views along the Walls of Lucca

Bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation inside and on the walls, and fortunately for us, our apartment rental included two bicycles. We rode numerous times on the 2½ miles of the flat, garden-like pedestrian promenade situated on top of the ancient defensive walls - which were actually designed by Leonardo di Vinci, no less!

Run, walk, ride or simply stroll along this elevated structure with amazing views of the entire city below… very much worth the time and effort… and a little exercise doesn’t hurt. 

img_8787 Pedestrian promenade on the city walls

path-traffic-peopleWalking, pedaling, riding along the walls

parklikkebikesOur wheels at one of many playgrounds

path-with-towerPrivate gardens along the city wall promenade

priv-gardenPalatial residences all along the path

refreshmentsRefreshments after a “strenuous” bike ride

 A Few Colorful Local Scenes Along the Way:

 carosaulA carousel in the park for all ages to enjoy

funghi-girlsThe local porcini mushroom sales team 

local-colorWhat is a town without - The Dude

A Surprise Find: An Exceptional Photography Exhibit



Sculpture Installations Displayed Throughout the City - created by Rabarama 





 Pizzas We Have Known and Loved

As a slow traveler you can simply…. stop and smell the pizza!

chickpea-pizzaPizza da Felice – specializing in chickpea crusts

pro-pizza-feliceThe perfect prosciutto pizza


Artichoke-and-porcini-mushroom pizza

tunna-onionsOnion-and-tuna pizza

A Few of the Amazing Meals

The Gli Orti di  Vialisa is a renowned sidewalk café and has been a staple of Lucca for over three generations…

img_8579Bruschetta Lucchese

img_8576Polpette di nonna bianco (traditional fried meat balls)

img_8577Sformatino  di verdue con salsa di fegatini (vegetables pudding/chicken liver sauce)

Lunch at Ristorante Giglio

giglioapptomatoTortino ai funghi in crosta su vellutato di cecci

 (ricotta cheese and mushrooms in a pastry crust with chickpea sauce)

octopus-appPolpo croccante con sedano e olive nere (grilled octopus with celery and black olives)

risotto-musselsRisotto zafferano e cozze (saffron risotto with mussels)

porcini-parpaMaccheroni lucchesi ai funghi porcini (squares of fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms)

Lucca’s Favorite Native Son - Giacomo Puccini


Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was born in Lucca on December 22, 1858 into a very well-established musical dynasty dating back to his great-great grandfather.

He grew up in Lucca and developed into what has been noted to be “the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi”… and that is saying a lot!

His birth home has been restored and turned into a small museum, but more importantly, his musical legacy is presented throughout the area in venues ranging from the annual Summer Opera Festival to daily recital concerts held in various locations in the city.

We were fortunate to enjoy an intimate recital of Madame Butterfly in the Church of San Giovanni, which was also the church where he was baptized.  The setting was stunning and the acoustics were perfect.

The performances are varied from day to day and best of all the tickets are reasonably priced and readily available.



The Cathedral of Saint Martin

The legend goes something like this… in the 14th century, the powers that be held a “contest” among a group of well-known artists, tasking each of them to sculpt a support pillar for this Romanesque cathedral with its elaborate marble exterior.

When they were finished, no winner was declared and no one was even paid for their efforts…and the powers that be got away with it, too.

img_8583Cathedral façade (note the different pillar designs)


Breathtakingly beautiful workmanship

The cathedral also contains the most precious relic in Lucca…Volto Santo di Lucca is a wood crucifix with the image of Christ and was carved by Nicodemus, a disciple of Christ.

Volto Santo di Lucca (Holy Face of Lucca)


The medieval walled city of Lucca can be seen in one quick day but the essence and warmth of Lucca requires the investment of days rather than hours. Think of it like consuming a special meal or a good bottle of wine… savoring rather than gulping makes the difference between a memory and a digital image.

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar,, armchairtravelogue,,

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